The CheiChei revolution: Beautiful living for all
Na Andrea Tapper
Fumba Town is growing. CheiChei apartments and shops are the latest addition to the green seaside city near the capital of Zanzibar. The super-affordable units are on sale now. One young man was lucky enough to even win one!
Abdulrahman Mohamed Said’s life changed overnight. The 27-year-old public relations officer of government investment agency ZIPA is still a bachelor but with his newly found luck he feels “100 percent sure to find a wife soon”. Said won a one-room apartment in Fumba Town during a recent raffle marking the launch of the newest addition to the town, the so-called CheiChei units, named after a traditional Swahili greeting.
A festive dinner reception at the Mao Zedong stadium attracted around 1,000 guests, young and senior, many of them coming from well-known Zanzibari families, eager to hear about equitable housing on the island. “That event was a milestone for us”, said Fatma Mussa, sales director of Fumba Town. In the beginning “there were some sceptics among locals”, she concedes. “We adjusted products and prices creating residencies with a Zanzibari identity.”
Studios starting at $14,900
270 CheiChei units in nine buildings start at an incredible TZS 35 million (around $14,900) for a one-room apartment. Embedded in a Swahili marketing campaign, the units are “selling like hot bread”, Mussa says. 72 units were booked immediately once they hit the market. 32 of more than 50 planned dukas – Swahili for shops – also sold at once. Each shop has a bath or store area. Prices begin at $12,900. The CheiChei bazaar will accommodate a big variety of merchandise and businesses from home-deco to gastronomy, from dentists to digital devices. “CheiChei is powerful”, Fatma Mussa said.
From the beginning, Fumba Town, a new model of a modern African town launched in 2015, was meant to cater to all income groups with one common goal: to create ecologically sound, beautiful living spaces with a complete infrastructure. With a school and a clinic, 94% waste recycling and lush permaculture gardens, the urban housing project overlooking the Indian Ocean is a novelty not only for Zanzibar but for Africa, a hybrid between residential and holiday living. Everybody, including foreigners, is free to buy here.
Wooden walls, concrete bathrooms
Situated at the outer brink of the estate, along the main road, the CheiChei section will have living spaces of different sizes, with lovely wooden balconies. 3-bedroom residencies start at $75,900; large shared units with up to seven bedrooms are also available. The flats and the bazaar shopping area will also be accessible from the main road. “We are creating a perfect link for shoppers and residents”, says Leander Moons. The young architect from Holland with an office in New York is responsible for the unusual, innovative design of the CheiChei quarter. The four-storey buildings with artfully decorated wooden balconies – very much Zanzibari style – are stabilised by a concrete core harbouring bathrooms and staircases. The outer frame of the houses is made of climate-friendly engineered timber. “Only by using local materials, can we build at such prices”, stresses Moons. The wooden wall elements are prefabricated in Fumba’s Volkshouse factory from locally sourced timber studs.
How to save costs?
Still, many people wonder how one can construct a home costing less than a small car? “Optimised planning, higher buildings and similar bathroom designs for all apartment types save money”, the architect explains. Ceilings consist of timber boards simply nailed together – an old technique almost forgotten, “but ideal for cost savings”, says Moons.
On the other hand, in a Zanzibar context, TZS 30 million for an 11-square-metre one-room studio still seems a lot of money to many who argue that for the same amount they would build a whole house somewhere in the countryside. “It all comes down to standards and lasting quality”, says Moons. “An informal building may still be lower-priced but when buying in Fumba, one is not only buying a single unit, but state-of-the art infrastructure. One becomes part of a community with top-notch services. This is often not considered when comparing it to building your own house.”
Living room for generations
”With a rapidly growing population there has never been a greater demand for housing”, stresses Tobias Dietzold, one of two German brothers who founded Fumba Town. More than 100,000 houses are urgently needed only in the zone including the Fumba peninsula. “People are encroaching more and more on agricultural land to build houses”, Dietzold recently warned.
That certainly rings true for home winner Abdulrahman M. Said who has nine siblings. “”Where would we all live in the future?” he often wondered. “I never expected to move to Fumba Town, but I love the greenery here. Big or small house, it does not matter”, he said, “ the most important thing is to have a home.”